Arts

Rotterdam’s former Witte de With art centre chooses ‘decolonial’ new name

The former Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam dropped its name from its façade, letterheads and digital channels in June 2020 Photo: Aad Hoogendoorn

The Rotterdam contemporary art centre known for 30 years as Witte de With, a name referring to a colonial naval officer, has chosen a new “decolonial” identity through an extensive community consultation. The centre will be known as Kunstinstituut Melly (Melly Art Institute) from 27 January 2021.

According to a press statement, the renaming process involved public input from more than 280 participants in Rotterdam, the Netherlands and internationally, although the final decision was made on 30 September by the centres director, Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy, and its seven-person supervisory board.

The renaming of Witte de With “responds to the claims raised by the larger decolonial movement”, says Hernández Chong Cuy. She joined the art centre in January 2018 with a mandate for change, after artists and activists argued in an open letter that the institutions outwardly inclusive and critical programme was compromised by its association with “a history of terror”. Its original namesake, Witte Corneliszoon de With, was a senior officer of both the Dutch West India Company and Dutch East India Company in the 17th century.

The centre says its new name represents an ambition “to become a more welcoming and daring cultural institution into the future”. The official launch on 27 January will be accompanied by “a new programme and policy vision”; further details are due to be announced in the coming months.

The name Melly was recommended by a diverse external advisory committee of 13 members, including Dutch arts leaders and Louise Mitchell, the chief executive of the Bristol Music Trust, who is overseeing the £50m transformation of the UK citys concert hall. The venue was rebranded last week as the Bristol Beacon after a campaign to change its name from Colston Hall, linked to the 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston. A statue of Colston was toppled by Black Lives MatteRead More – Source